The Voice of st leonards junior school

Friday, 9 February 2018
"By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before" Edwin Elliot


As part of a national campaign, this week was designated ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’. As pupils' well-being continues to (quite rightly) dominate the educational landscape, schools use weeks like this as an opportunity to promote aspects of good mental health in children. The theme this week has been ‘Being Ourselves’, a fundamental proactive measure in ensuring positive mental health. It is vital that children are comfortable within themselves, proud of who they are, and maintain the wonderful authenticity that much younger children possess. The greatest threat to this authenticity remains the growing societal pressure to compare ourselves with one another, striving to be who we are not, and losing the confidence in our own selves. To a degree, this is fuelled by social media, but also by the perceived pressures to succeed. Our class teachers have spent time this week discussing the idea of authenticity with their classes, and of course a major theme for us this year is ‘Dare to be Different’.

During the course of the week, much debate has been ignited following the Department for Education School Minister, Nick Gibb’s comments whereby he has said that one way to alleviate pupils’ mental health is to introduce more exams ('The way to deal with exam pressure is to make sure that young people are taking exams earlier on in their school career – the end of Year 7, the end of Year 8 and so on – so they’re used to taking exams'). I have had experience of schools that prepare children for end of term exams from Year 5 and external exams from Year 7, and also of schools such as St Leonards, which do not have exams at this stage. I don’t think exams have anything to do with mental health at this age, whether we have them or not. It is the foundations we lay to develop protective factors to ensure mental well-being that are so important, and something which I believe every school should put right at its heart. In short, happiness and well-being must be the linchpin of every school.

As I look back on the first five weeks of this term, I can happily reflect on a huge amount of individuality and authenticity displayed by our pupils. This has been shown in classrooms, where I see their fearless approach to learning; on the games field where pupils of all talents are prepared to ‘give it a go’ without fear of being felt exposed by ‘better players’; our exceptional art and design work captures the individuality and true authenticity of our pupils, most notably the Year 7 work on their identity. We see pupils displaying their true characters through drama, both during their individual LAMDA lessons (and we look forward to the Perth Festival after Half Term), and their group work. This week, we have seen the pupils courageously perform in the informal concerts, again showing their own unique talents and performance styles. Today, saw the whole school involved with our first inter-house ‘Unison Singing Competition’, which combined every child’s individual performance within each house. We saw a completely different approach by every child this afternoon and, combined, it led to a very powerful community event. This is true authenticity, whereby each boy and girl felt comfortable to bring their own style to each house’s song.

If we are to build resilient children (and I hate to sound robotic about this), we must ensure that every boy and girl recognises their own unique personality, is proud of their individual strengths (whilst being aware of areas to develop), and is comfortable – in fact, more than comfortable – with how they are. This is the essence of ‘being ourselves’ and there is absolutely no doubt that if our children can all grow up authentic to themselves, and to those around them, they will be prepared for the obstacles of life that provide temptation to veer off this path.

This also develops a very important life skill for the future. When people feel they have chosen their own path, and feel empowered within a group, they will create energy. Increasingly, big companies are looking for 'intrapreneurs'. These are people who have the attitude of entrepreneurs, but work within a company or school, rather than for their own business. They don’t need managing – or even leading – they are given enough freedom, power and therefore ownership to choose and propel their own projects that benefit their group and the organisation as a whole.

In Assembly this morning I once again quoted the final words of ‘Paddington 1’: “Mrs Brown says that in London, everyone is different, but that means anyone can fit in. I think she must be right, because I don’t look like anyone else, I really do feel at home. (I will never be like other people, but that’s alright. Because I am a bear. A bear called Paddington)'.

Wishing all St Leonards families a happy Half Term break, wherever your adventures take you.

William Goldsmith


HOUSE SINGING | You may have spotted the occasional princess, spotty Dalmation, swashbuckling pirate or mini 'Moana' around the Junior School today. Our Disney-themed Inter-House Singing Competition this afternoon rounded off a fantastic first half of Spring Term, which has been full of adventure, discovery and lots of learning!

Here they are singing 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin!


TOP TEAMWORK | Year 4P concluded their recent Unit of Inquiry on light and shadows and how we see colour with a teamwork exercise. The class conducted an experiment to find out how it feels to have impaired vision and to be reliant on others. They investigated different ways of helping others and of listening and responding appropriately to their needs. Having already examined the anatomy of the eye, this task was a great follow-up and prompted lots of interesting discussion!


YEAR 6 MUSEUM | Year 6 have been working incredibly hard on their exhibits for their class museum. The children have been following lines of inquiry on:

  • How technology has changed our lives in positive, and negative, ways.
  • The impact technological progress has had on our environment.
  • The ethics of consumerism.

The class have learned lots of fascinating facts over the course of the unit. Luc's highlight was discovering that the average 65-year-old American has seen over 2 million commercials in their life. Ewen learned that the average American family loads their washing machine eight to ten times a week, and Zahara learned about the computer, discovering that it was invented by Douglas Engelbert and needs power to function. Zahara said: 'People change computers too often and it's not good for the environment. Also, making them has a lot of environmental impact.'

There was a chance to view the pupils' findings when the Year 6 Museum opened for visitors earlier this afternoon!


NATIONAL LACROSSE COACH VISIT | During Spring Term, our Junior girls can often be spotted practising lacrosse on the scenic St Leonards playing fields, and Tuesday, 6 February was no exception. This, however, was a training session with a twist thanks to the coaching expertise of Dave Simpson, who is Head Coach of the Scotland Women’s National squad.

Coach Dave splits his time between coaching at home in the US and travelling to Scotland for one week each month, and it was great to be able to welcome him to St Leonards during his February stay in the UK.

The top coach had the Year 4 & 5 girls practising cradling techniques, playing ‘Sharks and Minnows’, and performing drills to perfect their skills on the field. He took the team back to basics, getting everyone moving and warmed up before covering a range of top tips for sporting success. A big thank you to Coach Dave for coming to St Leonards to share his experiences and skills, and inspire our girls!


ALL ABOUT ENERGY | Archie gave a fantastic demonstration of elastic potential energy using a tennis ball and a basketball to show the difference between the two when dropped from a height. Thank you to Archie for sharing his findings with the class! We were fortunate enough to capture his presentation on film!


YEARS 4-7 INFORMAL CONCERT | Thursday morning saw performers in Years 4-7 take to the stage for the first Informal Concert of 2018. The Guitar Club kicked off the concert in style, with the trio playing ‘Skyfall’ from James Bond, before a series of soloists showed off their skills on the piano, violin, cello, flute and snare drum. Shelagh and Rachel’s duet from the Disney film ‘Moana’ gave everyone a taste of the treats in store at Friday’s Disney-themed Inter-House Singing Competition!

For the final piece of the morning, the Boys’ Choir took us back to the Swinging Sixties with a fantastic rendition of the 1967 hit ‘With A Little Help from My Friends’ by The Beatles.

Well done to all our wonderful young musicians!


MITTEN MAKING | Year 1 have rounded off their unit with a design and make activity - to fashion a pair of warm, waterproof mittens. Although felt is not 100% waterproof, they felt it was a better option than the sack cloth that had been the most effective in their investigation last week.


The following pupils received certificates at Celebration Assembly on Monday:

Eilidh and Mark were both awarded 'Artist of the Month' certificates for January, recognising their work inspired by 'identity'.

Jimmy and Kyle received 'Artist of the Month' awards for December for their work on 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'.

Kamilah received two certificates this week, a Headmaster's Commendation for making a booklet on simple machines as part of the Unit of Inquiry, and Year 2 Pupil of the Week for showing great kindness at home. Kamilah helped to prepare a meal for her 90-year-old neighbour, who lives alone.

Sam received a Spirit of St Leonards award for showing great politeness and respect to adults, holding doors open and greeting parents.

Lucca was presented with a Spirit of St Leonards award for displaying impeccable manners in PE last week.

Eabha and Archie each received a certificate for 100 Good Marks.

Marko received a Headmaster's Commendation for creating a wonderful pulley system, which he designed and built at home. This model of an elevator for a spaceship is part of the 'Simple Machines' Unit of Inquiry.

Harry was awarded Year 3 Pupil of the Week for showing superb focus and striving to produce work he is extremely proud of.

Thomas was awarded Year 1 Pupil of the Week for a lovely act of kindness towards teachers, and for consistently good behaviour all week.

Angus received a Headmaster's Commendation for trying incredibly hard to join his letters when writing in a variety of contexts.

Freddie received a Headmaster's Commendation for trying incredibly hard during comprehension tasks linked to the Class Reader.

Oscar received a Headmaster's Commendation for working very hard in Maths and making outstanding progress.

Bronze Stars for 50 House Points were awarded to: Alfie, Archie, Hannah, Lewis and Lucy.

Silver Stars for 100 House Points were awarded to : Anna, Francis and Kabir.


PAST CIVILISATIONS | Year 4 have been tuning into their new unit on 'Evidence of Past Civilisations' and looking at how they connect to present-day societies. The children have been finding out who these people were and exploring whether they can see any connections.

There are many exciting visits planned both in school and off site as part of this Unit of Inquiry. As ever, if anyone has relevant expertise and would like to share it with the Year 4 class, please do get in touch.


SPEED PARACHUTE TRIALS | Year 5P had a great time testing Archie’s speed parachute this week in a bid to find out about the effect it would have on their running. On the outrun, the parachute hardly made any difference, but when on the return journey, the wind filled the parachute, causing serious air resistance and slowing down our enthusiastic runners!

Here’s Logan managing to run at quite a pace, despite being attached to the contraption!


SAFETY SIGNS | Year 3 have been very busy this week creating their safety hazard signs. This is the culmination of their hard work on their recent Unit of Inquiry, in which the pupils interviewed health and safety officers and looked out for danger all around them. Great work from Year 3!


YEARS 1-3 INFORMAL CONCERT | Today has been something of a musical extravaganza, starting with the Lower School's Informal Concert in the Music School Auditorium this morning. First up were the Year 2 violinists, who have been learning to play the violin for just five weeks! They had already succeeded in preparing two concert pieces - Copycat Blues and At The Zoo - which is a super achievement for the first half of term!

It was wonderful to see so many of the boys and girls standing up to perform solo pieces on the violin, recorder and piano, and Year 1 received a huge round of applause for their rendition of January Days! Year 3 performed the 'grand finale' on the glockenspiel, playing Snowflakes, the perfect tune for a chilly winter's day!


EXPLORING THE WEDGE | This week, Year 2 have been learning all about the wedge as the last 'simple machine' of their Unit of Inquiry. They tried making faces using slices of carrot, and when that didn't work, the boys and girls cut the slices into wedges. Hey presto, the wedge shape could be pushed into slots cut into the apple, creating a fabulous fruity face!


DRAMA WORKSHOP | The boys and girls in Year 7 were joined by Year 11 students for a special drama workshop this afternoon, who gave them some top tips ahead of the school performance of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Tickets for the play, which runs from 21-23 February, are now available from the Byre Theatre Box Office on 01334 475000.


It has been a fabulously frantic and exciting week in the Lower School. Children have been humming songs from Disney in readiness for the ‘Big Sing’, the sun is starting to show itself more regularly and we even, briefly, saw some snow. What with Mental Health Awareness Week and Internet Safety Day on Tuesday, there has been much to talk about in all the year groups. None of this, though, has got in the way of our weekly objectives.

  • Year 1 - Mathematics: To know the days of the week and the months of the year. English: Having completed their non-fiction books, the children will be writing their 'blurb'. They are also learning about the phonemes 'ng', 'nk' and 'th'.
  • Year 2 - Mathematics: To be able to add various combinations of numbers. English: Building on last week, Year 2 have been writing amazing instructions for spider biscuits to rival any recipe book, as well as learning the phoneme 'wh'.
  • Year 3 - Mathematics: Investigating 3D shapes, naming and identifying their properties. English: Flat Stanley is reaching his conclusion, and the children are consolidating their ability to answer comprehension questions in full sentences. In grammar, they are distinguishing between regular and irregular past tense. They are also learning the phoneme 'k'.
  • French - All Lower School children have been engaged in French phonics, linked to their class phonemes, and all are getting to grips with their word of the month 'l'amour'!

It was wonderful to see you at our Parents Evenings, and we wish all a glorious Half Term break, whether you are at home or abroad.

Claire Boissiere, Lower School Co-ordinator

We wish the following a...

We wish the following a very Happy Birthday for the week ahead: Emily, Millie, Harry, Alina and Olivia

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